Rai Benjamin places second in 400-meter hurdles at NCAA finals

Rai Benjamin (middle) finished second in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA championships on Friday. (Photo courtesy UCLA Athletics)

Sophomore Rai Benjamin placed second place in the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field on Friday with a personal-best 48.33 seconds.

The time, which ranked third all-time in UCLA history was only 0.01 seconds behind national champion Eric Futch as the senior from Florida clocked a 48.32.

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Grad transfer OL Sunny Odogwu chooses UCLA

Jim Mora’s search for grad transfer talent came up big Friday as the Bruins landed the commitment of former Miami right tackle Sunny Odogwu.

Odogwu chose UCLA over Michigan and can add immediate help to an much-maligned offensive line. While earning his bachelor’s degree at Miami, he started 14 games but dealt with major injuries late in his career.

The 6-foot-8, 325-pound right tackle missed the final game of the 2015 season due to knee surgery and only lasted five games of the 2016 year after he broke his lower leg in a game against Florida State.

A native of Nigeria, Odogwu came to the United States when he was 16 after his father died. He originally came to pursue a basketball career, but found football as a senior in high school. He’s known to be personable and warm, just as his name would suggest.

“That’s who I am, that’s who God made me and I appreciate that,” he told the Miami Herald in 2015. “But as a player I just put my head down and go to work every day knowing that the coaches have my best interest and the team’s best interest at heart.”

UCLA’s offensive line struggled last year, but returned every starter except for left tackle Conor McDermott. If Odogwu sticks at right tackle, he’ll displace Kenny Lacy, who took over the spot during spring practice. Lacy did not particularly shine during spring camp as he repeatedly lost one-on-one reps against UCLA’s fast edge rushers. UCLA’s starting offensive line, from left to right, during spring practice was Kolton Miller, Andre James, Scott Quessenberry, Najee Toran and Lacy.

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Can Lonzo Ball be a transcendent player in the NBA?

Our Southern California News Group Lakers beat writer Mark Medina had me on his podcast, where I rambled about Lonzo Ball after his workout for the Lakers on Wednesday.

Among the subjects we tackled were Lonzo’s evolution from soft-spoken freshman to legitimate leader at UCLA, his potential to change the culture of a franchise, whether he can be a transcendent player in the NBA, the obvious holes in his game and, of course, LaVar Ball and Big Baller Brand.

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UCLA’s Kris Wilkes one of 28 vying for USA basketball roster spot

Kris Wilkes is doing a fine job building anticipation for his debut with the UCLA basketball team.

The most decorated member of Steve Alford’s 2017 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 2 in the country, has already worn a McDonald’s All-American jersey. He’ll don a USA Basketball one in a few weeks.

The incoming freshman small forward was among 28 players invited to Team USA’s U19 World Championship Team training camp June 18-25 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The first roster cut-down will happen after two days and the 12-member team will be determined by June 22. The final roster coached by Kentucky’s John Calipari will attempt to win a third consecutive gold medal during the FIBA U19 World Championships in Cairo, Egypt July 1-9.

UCLA rising senior Thomas Welsh was a member of the 2015 gold medal-winning team. This year’s roster will feature three of Calipari’s Kentucky players along with a couple familiar faces from the Pac-12, Continue reading “UCLA’s Kris Wilkes one of 28 vying for USA basketball roster spot” »

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Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, sits down with team brass

Lonzo Ball at the LA Lakers training facility in El Segundo where he went through a workout and spoke to reporters afterward. (Photo by Brad Graverson/SCNG)

Lonzo Ball’s long-awaited workout for the Lakers wasn’t limited to the basketball court on Wednesday. Tuesday night, the former UCLA point guard had dinner with Lakers coach Luke Walton, GM Rob Pelinka and President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson.

After his 75-minute workout at the Lakers practice facility – followed by an interesting session with the media – Ball was whisked off to a lunch date with Lakers owners Jeanie, Joey and Jesse Buss.

Ball’s private workout included “typical stuff” on the court, but he had a few eyebrow-raising things to say afterward. As for his infamous father, LaVar, Lonzo said he was ensured at dinner that Lakers brass is far from worried.

“They said they love him,” Lonzo said. “That’s about it.”

LaVar Ball wasn’t present at the workout or at dinner Tuesday night in Venice. Neither were any of the current Lakers players.

READ: Lonzo Ball downplays criticism of LaVar, highlights leadership qualities 

Perhaps the most interesting thing Ball had to say indirectly referenced D’Angelo Russell, the team’s current point guard. Continue reading “Lonzo Ball works out for Lakers, sits down with team brass” »

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